Be Professional

The definition as Wikipedia describes it:
“A professional is a person who is paid to undertake
a specialized set of tasks, and to complete them
for a fee.”   That’s true, and “professions” are
associated with some sort of recognition that
quantifies them as a professional, such as a
diploma, certificate, or degree. 

In the automotive field an ASE certification,
manufacturer certifications, or years of service
are just some of the ways to distinguish one as a
pro vs. a parts swapping wanna-be mechanic. 
But the mere fact of calling oneself a professional
doesn't always add up to the degree or certificate
that says you are one. In my opinion, handling yourself as a professional matters just as much.

I try to approach each and every job as a professional.  These include detailing your results and striving to make each repair look as neat and orderly as possible. (Sloppy work usually means sloppy results.)  It doesn’t matter whether the job is for a customer off the street or for another repair shop… you do the best professional job possible.

I recently got a car from a small motor swap shop that I used to see once in a great while.  They never sent a lot of work, but their techs would call me constantly asking for information on how to repair something. Very rude, and definitely a second rate repair shop.  Grudgingly, I told them I would look at this car, even though it didn’t sound like one I wanted to deal with.  The car had a zillion miles on it with a turbo/intercooler engine under the hood.  The car definitely had seen better days, however this was the typical type of car they were likely to get in their shop.

Under the hood I found a lot of new parts slapped on and several things out of place, most of which were not fastened down correctly with their retainers or clips.  What wasn’t broken or out of place was coated with oil sludge and dirt. You could tell they had no idea what was wrong or what they were doing, and were only throwing parts at it hoping it would start.

The first thing I found were several wires that were poorly spliced together, and most of the relays were dangling off their brackets.  I had to fix the wires even before I could check the rest of the systems.  The main complaint was the fuel pump wasn't coming on.  They had already changed out the fuel pump relay, and even though (at the relay) it had all the correct signals, it refused to cooperate.  What I found was something I rarely see, but it does happen… the relay was built backwards.  For now, the easiest solution was to reverse the leads at the relay.  Once I switched it over, the car started.  It ran terrible, service light was flashing, and a misfire code was stored.

Upon further diagnosing, I found a broken wire at the no#1 coil.  The front cylinders were a little easier to get to, but the no#1 cyl. was in the back, covered by all the intercooler and intake tubes.  I had the O Scope hooked up to a pressure transducer, and it was showing some weird exhaust pressure readings. Sure enough, a compression test on one of the front cylinders confirmed my suspicion: the converter was clogged as well. I wasn’t surprised that the spark plugs were, at best... finger tight, and every single intake bolt, intercooler bolt, and fasteners had never been properly tightened.  Instead of pulling the intake section and intercooler lines off to get to the no#1 cylinder and fix the wire, I thought it’s time to call these guys and give them the news. 

“We can handle it from here,” they told me. 

They paid for my time, and as expected it wasn’t long before they needed more help.  They had already fixed the wire on the coil and replaced the converter. It started, but died shortly after that. They were at a loss, so naturally I got a call. I could tell there was already some tension from their end of the phone, and I was going to be the scapegoat for this car’s demise.

“I'd check the fuel pressure... sounds like that might be part of the original problem, before all this other stuff went wrong,” I told him before he rudely hung the phone up.

I went over my test results again. My guess is they probably broke the wires while changing the plugs, and only made things worse by changing the relays.  More than likely the fuel pump was the original problem all along, with a slightly clogged converter.

I always thought these guys were a little shifty, and it wasn’t long before I found out for sure.  Their tech needed to save face with the boss, so he proceeded to tell him I didn’t know what I was doing, and never did anything to help the repair along. The owner turned out to be just as unprofessional as his hired hands.  What was my clue? He stopped payment on the check.  

You bet I was furious... but, let's cool down a bit and not stoop to their level… let’s be professional about this. I kept my cool and called them, “I'm not here to lie, cheat or steal...and I’ve never-ever done that to you or anyone else.  I'm here to do a job… a job I do with the utmost of care.  Your lack of handling things in a professional manner only shows me what caliber of a person you really are. If you had a problem, call me or bring the car back.  But trying to save a few bucks on your part after the efforts I put in this is uncalled for.  I don’t want your money. I also don’t want your techs calling me to pick my brain for answers. It’s not about the money now, it’s about the principle.”

I said my peace, and hung up the phone… case closed.  Shops like these give the rest of us a bad name.  They'll deny everything, charge for anything, and never do any service on a customer’s car in a professional manner.  I could tell they expected an argument once they realized who was on the other end of the line, but they weren't expecting the response I gave them. It’s as if they had a lot of practice arguing with customers over repairs… I’m not arguing…

Actually, I felt a hundred percent better after handling it this way. I didn’t see any reason to stand there toe to toe, and try to get compensated for my professional time.   My professionalism means more to me than a few bucks.  Let’s face it, for a repair shop to insult another shop, especially when they couldn’t figure it out shows their true nature.  

The Wikipedia definition of a professional needs some clarification. It should have included not only doing a task or job for compensation… but acting like one after you’ve written the check.

       Who loses out with these poor repairs done by mechanics who only know how to swap parts? …unfortunately, the customer.

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